Melissa Monette is the youth coordinator for Blessed Sacrament Parish in Ottawa. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Ottawa’s youth synod consultation draws up wide range of concerns

By 
  • May 19, 2017

OTTAWA – With the ubiquitous use of smartphones and computer screens, today’s youth face both immense challenges and opportunities, say Catholic youth leaders.

“They tend to struggle with real social connection that is not through a screen,” Melissa Monette, youth coordinator at Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament Parish told a consultation the Ottawa archdiocese is holding for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. “If they feel awkward, they do not push through those emotions, they turn on their phone. They don’t deal with awkwardness or feelings anymore.”

The archdiocese is holding four consultations based on a questionnaire the Synod of Bishops in Rome sent to episcopal conferences around the world. Among the queries are: “In what manner does the Church listen to the lived situations of young people?” and “What do young people really ask of the Church in your country today?”

The results of these discussions will help shape the working document for the synod scheduled for October 2018.

Monette said another issue for youth is bullying, which has “gone to a whole new level.”

“I don’t think any youth gets through this without wounds,” she said. The challenge is to help teens work through these wounds, and to help them from becoming bullies themselves.

“It’s everywhere, damaging them, and we don’t know,” Monette said.

Monette also pointed out that “the amount of sex and drugs is insane.”

“I’ve met kids who said things at age nine that I had to look up,” she said. “It starts way too young. There’s a lack of interest in God, in church and in religion.”

For Michelle Miller, who serves as coordinator for young adults and faith formation at St. Joseph’s Parish near the University of Ottawa campus, post-secondary students are facing “huge” financial issues, as well as worries about what happens after they finish school. Those issues are compounded by the declining level of trust people have in society’s institutions, including the Church.

“Young adults wear an armour around them and you have to get through that armour,” Miller said. “They can smell authenticity a mile away. You won’t get through that armour unless there is some authenticity.”

While Miller agreed with the concerns about over-dependence on tech devices, she said the ability to connect online gives youth huge opportunities as well. She pointed out the advantage of being connected to people all over the world and having access to materials on faith and spiritual conversion that are “completely out-of-the-box,” she said.

Youth, she added, are also seeking opportunities for service. In a narcissistic society, they “know it feels different” to help others.

Young people are also looking for tools to help them make good choices, Monette said.

“They are looking for a place to be accepted,” Monette said, noting that sometimes a teen “just needs to vent, to sit there and be upset.”

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